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Alternate meaning: Wasp (disambiguation)

WASP is an acronym used in American English which stands for White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. The term is generally considered to have been coined by E. Digby Baltzell as a convenient shorthand in his 1964 book . (An E. B. Palmore is also credited with defining it in a 1962 journal article.)

The term, as used in the United States, generally describes a class of wealthy whites with ties to colonial America, who often have a certain amount of social standing and may or may not be part of the Establishment. The denominations of Northern European Christianity probably encompassed by the WASP idea included Episcopal (Anglican), Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, Congregationalist (Puritan), Dutch Reformed, Quaker, Northern Baptist and Southern Baptist, et al.

The Northern European ethnicities which originated those faiths and brought them to North America include the English, Scots, Welshmen, and Cornish; the Scotch-Irish which composed about a quarter of the early colonial population; and Germanic peoples closely related to the English, primarily the Dutch.

In contemporary use, the term is usually used to denote wealthier, educated Protestants, often in the context of high society, prep school, or Ivy League-level college educations. The term, when used this way, is most often applied to the New England and the Northeast. However, these regions now have majority Catholic populations, and are no longer WASP heartlands. The term WASP is less commonly used in the Midwest, where generations of Yankee pioneers and farmers settled, though this region maintains a Protestant majority. In the South, the term is more common than in the Midwest, although because the South is majority Southern Baptist, a denomination which has different educational and cultural values than their Northern American Protestant counterparts, the term does not entirely fit.

The term WASP generally is used to distinguish this group from latter-day white Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Jewish immigrants who are otherwise successful but lack the pedigree the term implies. As such, it is often used pejoratively and may be considered somewhat racist or race-conscious and/or anti-Semitic. Sociologically, the term is somewhat ahistoric etymologically, simplistic and somewhat trite, but is used pervasively to describe a certain set of the American population.

See also